Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Satan found a way to distort even something so foundational and fundamental to our world: Kindness. I think we’ve lost sight of what it means to be kind.
WHAT IS KINDNESS?
A few definitions of kindness:
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, considerate, and caring about other people.
Kindness is motivated by the desire to help another.
Kindness is the sincere and voluntary use of one’s time, talent, and resources to better the lives of others.
Kindness is love.
Kindness is one of those traits that is often spoken of but rarely understood. We all have a general idea of what kindness is based on these definitions, but when it comes to truly embodying it, many of us fall short.
In recent times, it seems that kindness has become a scarce commodity and if it’s shown, there is much more emphasis placed on individualism and the self, as we celebrate the act of being kind rather than kindness itself with the hope of extending selfless compassion and care to others.
I also see another problem emerging when it comes to kindness today where our understanding of kindness has become muddled. We have started to equate kindness with acceptance, validation, affirmation, and approval.
Can these be kind things to do? Most definitely! But I don’t believe that all acceptance, validation, affirmation, and approval are necessarily kind. For example, if my kids want to eat candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because they love it and it makes them happy, I think it’s unkind of me to let them do that.
As I mentioned, kindness is typically described as a behavior hallmarked by generosity, consideration, and concern for others. But how do we show this? I think we have to ask ourselves first if we want to be a cheerleader or a truth-teller.
Cheerleading can be great but lacking without truth. This truth is an essential aspect of kindness because withholding or distorting the truth can harm people in the long run, even if it seems kind in the moment. And that would be unkind, no?
Kindness, in turn, is often not convenient or comfortable, but an expression of love. It requires that we are not only honest with others but also honest with ourselves about our intentions and motives.
ACTS OF KINDNESS
Yup, today’s the day you went to lunch with coworkers and it wasn’t until the end of the day that you realized that half of your lunch was stuck between your teeth. No one said anything. How kind of them to protect your feelings so you wouldn’t be embarrassed. How kind of them to protect their own feelings to prevent an awkward moment. Kindness, right?
A man holds the door open for a woman. That used to be considered kind. Now this can be considered sexist (by the way, I still love it when a gentleman holds the door open for me). So what is kind? Holding the door open or not holding the door open? Whose truth do we live? Is it simply a matter of giving the other person what they want? Where does this source of kindness come from?
During a routine physical, the doctor discovers that we have stage 4 cancer. The doctor asks how we feel and we say we feel great. What is the kind thing for the doctor to do? To sugarcoat it? To ignore the truth? In order to keep being kind, should the doctor play along so as to not wreak havoc with our emotions?
KINDNESS: TRUTHFUL AND SACRIFICIAL
I am forever grateful for the deep kindness I have experienced and received in my life. One example that stands out to me of course, is my alcohol addiction. This was when those who cared about my well-being spoke kindly to me, in truth, that I needed help.
Did I want that kindness at the time? Absolutely not! But what I loved about this kindness is that it was the type of love and true kindness that came at a cost. It was the type of kindness that was willing to shatter harmony and bring discord by bringing harm to the problem rather than harm to me (though it might have felt like harm to me).
There’s risk involved in that type of kindness because I could choose to walk away from my loved ones and reject their kindness or choose to draw near.
I saw this quote on social media and it received countless likes:
“A person who values you would never put themselves in a position to lose you (internal motivation).”
I see it differently:
“A person who truly values you will always be willing to put themselves in a position to lose you for your good and spiritual well-being (external motivation).”
Kindness is not just a way to make someone feel good, but it is a radical way to make someone know they are loved. It requires us to put the needs of others above our own, just as Jesus did when he was sacrificed on the cross for our sins.
KINDNESS IN THE BIBLE
Sure, we can demonstrate kindness and do kind things for others, but we must ask ourselves why we do these things. I don’t believe we can experience or give true kindness without the source of truth. And as Christians, we believe that truth comes from God’s Word.
And in His Word, He teaches us that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit and that it should be evident in our lives as we seek to love and serve others. Let us not lose sight of what kindness really is.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
Originally published on STAR 99.1/STAR 93.3. Pillar Ministries.